BrilliAnt was in a pickle. Already deep up to her thorax overseeing the assignment of the N Division worker ants for daily foraging duties, she had been burdened for the rest of the month with the onerous task of calculating the daily nutritional loads for the notoriously hyperactive ant larvae of Sector MCMLXXII. Silently cursing the indisposed AccountAnt, whose debility by way of a fractured left antenna had let to her predicament, she turned her mind to the much hated task at hand and signalled her trusted AssistAnt.
“March them in, will you?” she chirped, even as AssistAnt scrambled out to get the attention of the duty detail of the day.
BrilliAnt sighed as the usual culprits marched in; though she loved these morning briefings, this was one of the days when nothing seemed to get the right start.
Climbing up a step to her favourite brown pebble, she addressed the assembled congruous crew, “Ok girls, sharpen those mandibles and listen up! We are already battling an imbalance in terms of the nutritional load ever since the colony moved away from the honeydew-rich zone. However, a batch of XLVII new larvae is due this noon and we expect a significant shortfall of proteins soon continuing the feed into the night. Following are the teams for the day:
Team Alpha: DominAnt (team leader), SignificAnt, ImportAnt and AbundAnt
Team Beta: ConfidAnt (team leader), CombatAnt, PenetrAnt and ResultAnt
Team Gamma: ObservAnt (team leader), CompliAnt, AnticipAnt and PropellAnt
Backup Defence Team: ValiAnt (team leader), BlatAnt, VibrAnt and DefiAnt
The target assigned for the day – based on WarrAnt’s intelligence gathering – are the bird feeders. It seems that there was a trace of chicken on the crow feeder plate yesterday and presently that seems to be our best hope for proteins. Keep those compound eyes sharp and go for it, girls. Good luck,” BrilliAnt concluded with a flourish of her right front leg.
As the teams marched out swiftly, she got busy with attending to the day’s work smartly laid out by AssistAnt. Just about an hour had passed when there was utter bedlam. CommunicAnt rushed into her chamber, breathless, her antennae wavering all over the place. “Team Beta reporting loss of CombatAnt! The team was on a mound of boiled rice and a sparrow came pecking. The bird flew away when they went into attack mode but with CombatAnt holding on to its beak! Backup Defence Team is planning to scout around for her, but it may take weeks. Rest of Team Beta is headed back to base with the rice grains. There seems to be one spot of good news though – Team Alpha has found a large mound of bread crumbs in the crow feeder, but they can only manage so much. It is volumetrically disproportionate, you know,” she blurted out in one go.
BrilliAnt’s brow was furrowed deep. The loss of a worker was bad in itself, but rice? That was a problem – it was more of carbohydrates! What was Team Beta thinking? She let loose a volley of orders, “Get Teams Beta and Gamma to drop whatever their loads and follow the pheromone trails to the crow feeder. Get them to assist Team Alpha in lifting the bread – it has more proteins than the rice! Send an additional backup detail of TyrAnt and MutAnt. I need that bread more than the crow does. Now get going!”
As CommunicAnt scrambled out of the colony with her orders, BrilliAnt wiped at her head with her left front leg sullenly. Today was certainly not her day. Though they had managed to lay their mandibles upon some proteins – hopefully it would be the 9.1% bread variant – still, extracting the meagre proteins would be a tough ask.
Even as those thoughts were still dissolving in her brains, DormAnt walked in with a flourish, “Queen PregnAnt sends her greetings along with the good news that a fresh batch of MMXX eggs is being delivered to your Sector by this noon. She is further rewarding you with the honour of hosting all the batches of eggs laid till the end of this month. Hope this pleases you well.”
BrilliAnt promptly fainted as all her six legs gave way!
[Featuring: Yellow Crazy Ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes), worker ants; Mumbai]
– Narendra Nayak © 2020